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Claude Paradin

Gordon 1551 .P37

(Click on the call number to view the digital facsimile of the book.)

Deuises heroïques,/par m. Claude Paradin, Chanoyne de Beauieu.

A Lyon: Par Iean de Tournes, et Guil. Gazeau, 1551.
Binder: Trautz-Bauzonnet.

Gordon 1557 .P37

(Click on the call number to view the digital facsimile of the book.)

Deuises heroïques, par m. Claude Paradin Chanoine de Beaujeu.

A Lion, Par Ian. de Tournes, et Guil. Gazeau, 1557.
Binder: Lortic.

By the late fifteenth, and in the sixteenth-century, French royalty and nobility often adopted a devise, a symbolic image, usually accompanied by a latin motto, to represent themselves—as part of a coat of arms, but also in home decoration, furnishings and clothing. The popular adoption of the para-heraldic devise was due in part to a decline in the military role of traditional heraldry, as well as to the increasingly complex and rigid rules of transmission applied to coats of arms.

Claude Paradin published his collection of devises in 1551, first giving only the image and motto. In the subsequent, expanded edition of 1557 (Gordon 1551 .P37) he provides a brief explanation of the symbol and how it represents the individual who chose it or to whom the symbol was attributed by the Renaissance.

“NVTRISCO ET EXTINGO,” for example, illustrates Francis I’s devise, the salamander with crown.

The porcupine and crown, with the motto, “VLTVS AVOS TROIAE,” represents Louis XII and his powers of defense.

Marguerite de Navarre is represented by the marigold, the “fleur du souci,” and the acccompanying motto, “NON INFERIORA SEQVVTUS.”

The rainbow is the symbol of “Madame Catherine, Royne de France.” Her devise, the “arc en ciel,” is the sign of peace, in this case the peace she sought to regain in her country, torn by religious wars.

In some cases, Paradin assigns a devise to a figure from the past, explaining as well the universal moral sense of the image for his readers.

Gordon 1551 .P37
Gordon 1557 .P37

The image of the snake and hand, with the motto, “QVIS CONTRA NOS,” are associated with St. Paul, because of the episode in his life in which God protected him from a venomous snake bite. In the 1557 edition, Paradin underscores the general message to his readers: “car veritablement à qui Dieu veut ayder, il n’y ha rien qui puisse nuire.”

Gordon 1557 .P37

In the 1557 edition, Paradin adds a devise for Joan of Arc, “la pucelle d’Orléans.” The motto, “Consilio firmata Dei,” is accompanied by the figure of the crowned sword, flanked by two fleurs de lys. Paradin explains that the image serves as a perpetual monument to the defense and protection of France.

The book’s eventual format, combining woodcut image with latin motto and brief explanation, followed the model of and capitalized on the popularity of emblem collections, whose images referred to a concept or idea, rather than characterizing an individual person. Whereas the emblème may depict a single figure or an entire scene, the personal devise limits itself to one or a small number of related figures, with no background “scene.” The devise itself included only a brief motto, although Paradin’s expanded version provides the explanatory text that makes his second edition of his Devises heroiques much more similar in format to the emblem book.

Gordon 1551 .P37

Likewise, Paradin includes examples that adhere to the visual format of the personal devise, but that in fact convey a universal theme, with no direct attribution of the figure to a specific individual in the explanatory texts of the later edition. Presumably one could choose to adopt such a devise. Without an established association with a particular individual, however, the devise in question acts rather as a universal emblem and may have served to enlarge the potential readership and use of the volume.

The hand, the royal sleeve, and the sword of “NON SINE CAVSA” signify the judicial power inherent in all government. The devise applies to all princes and magistrates, and serves to remind all subjects of the need to fear and respect the hand of justice.

Gordon 1557 .P37

The figure of the harp (“IN SIBILO AVRAE TENVIS”) symbolizes the power of music over melancholy. The divine effects of music, and of the harp in particular, are associated with David, who played to comfort King Saul, but Paradin stresses the power of music over all human souls.

The flies on the mirror of “MELIVS IN SORDIBVS HAERENT” (“Labuntur nitidis scabrisq; tenacius haerent” in the 1557 edition) represent a general moral truth about the positive effects of adversity, attributed to no particular individual but applicable to all human nature.

Gordon 1551 .P37
Gordon 1557 .P37

Paradin’s printer, Jean de Tournes, published numerous emblem books in mid-16th century Lyon. The woodcuts in Paradin’s books are attributed to Bernard Salomon, one of the most accomplished woodcut designers of the era, who provided many illustrations for Jean de Tournes.

The devises, like the other forms of the emblem genre, were popular throughout Europe and printed in numerous languages. A sixteenth-century English translation of Paradin’s work (London, 1591) is available on the website of the Penn State University English Emblems Project.

The table of contents for the digitized version of the English translation (The heroicall devises of M. Claudius Paradin […]. Translated out of our Latin into English by P.S. William Kearney) is at:

Links to the English translations of the devises noted above:

Nutrisco, & extinguo. / I nourish, and I extinguish.
Vltus auos Troiae. / He hath revenged his forefathers quarrell, by the example of Troy.
Non inferiora secutus. / Following no meane things.
The raine bow doth bring faire weather.
Quis contra nos? / If God be with vs, who can be against us.
Consilio firmata Dei. / It is established by Gods decree.
Non sine causa. / Not without cause.
In sibilo aurae tenuis. / In the muttering of the gentle aire.
Labuntur nitidis, scabrisque tenatius harent. / Flies do fall downe from slipperie place, but stick fast vpon the hard and rough.

Internet Resources

French Emblems at Glasgow includes a facsimile and transcription of both the 1551 and 1557 editions of the Devises heroïques, along with information about Paradin, the publication history of his work, and a select secondary bibliography.



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